How to Manage Anxiety in Children with a Dual Diagnosis of ASD & OCD

Autism Parenting Magazine Offers 6 Helpful Tips

At least 17% of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) also have a diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Other studies report that the percentage of children who hold a dual diagnosis of ASD and OCD may actually be higher, around 37%. For parents raising a child with both ASD and OCD, Autism Parenting Magazine has recently published a list of quick and simple guidance to help navigate the challenging behaviors that come along with this dual diagnosis. 

  1. Carefully observe any behavior rituals to identify their source. Note those that lead to high level anxiety outbursts when interfered with.
  2. Remember that if a behavior is identified as being compulsive then the child cannot control this him/herself at first. He/she needs an adult to step in and put clear environmental controls in place.
  3. Initially the anxiety behavior will increase in intensity when boundaries are put in place and this is difficult to observe. Work as a family or school team to support each other through this difficult but hopefully short phase.
  4. Ensure that adults around the child do not panic or show emotional reactions to the anxiety meltdowns. This will feed and prolong this part of the process.
  5. Begin by controlling or prohibiting the behaviors that are causing the child the most anxiety and work down the list as each one is eradicated. Be sure not to use obsessions to bargain with children. They need to trust us and the structure we put in.
  6. Be observant to any new ritualistic behavior or any behaviors that return and put in the same strong boundaries.

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